The first historical examples of the culture of Elafonisos are very old. The various archaeological finds culminating in the oldest submerged state in the world, Pavlopetri. This great archaeological and historical wealth is explained by the geographical position of Elafonisos on the routes of ships in eastern Mediterranean. This important position  was a advantage for pirates and barbarians to attack the ships passing through Elafonisos straight, between Elafonisos and Kythira. Moreover, this position was responsible for the occupation of the island and its domination by a number of peoples such as Arabs, Franks and Saracens.

The existence of life, action and culture on the island began in prehistoric era and the island is found in a number of references of ancient travelers for the temples that host.  Pausanias and Strabon have references about Elafonisos. The inhabitation of the island continues over time and this is also evidenced by newer findings. The island took its recent form after the devastating earthquake of AD 375, which destroyed Pavlopetri city and divided Elafonisos from the rest of the Peloponnese.

The first name of the island, as it is depicted on maps of antiquity, is Onou Gnathos, which means donkey jar, apparently from the shape of the island,and today’s name due, as the name reveals, to the existence of deer on the island.